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Spring into action

Start down the path to feeling good

By Susan Wiese

Wellness exercise ball 165

April 13, 2010

There's no time like right now to shore up one’s sagging resolve to lose weight or eat better. With the arrival of spring, it's time to get out the bicycle, bounce the dust off the stability ball, lace up the tennis shoes, and start down a path to feeling good. So why not begin the countdown to a healthier you, and maybe make a little money, too?

#10: Breathe
Could better health be as simple as breathing? Maybe so. As you read this, take a deep breath. When you exhale, allow tension to leave your body. Let your shoulders relax. Let your legs, your feet, and your toes relax. Now, really start letting go and lose the rigidity in your abdomen, your pelvis and your spine. Release the tension inside of you. Let go of old limitations. Feeling better? Good. Learn a little more about breathwork online.

#9: Assess your health
Begin your quest for better health with a wellness assessment. The tool can give you a baseline to gauge your current health status and then chart a course for health improvement. If you are a UPlan member, there is an added benefit to act now. When a UPlan-covered employee and his or her spouse or same sex domestic partner (SSDP) completes the online wellness assessment by April 30, each is eligible to receive a $65 wellness reward.

Non-UPlan members can find an alternative assessment, Take Charge of Your Health, through the Center for Spirituality and Healing. (There is no financial reward for completing this self-assessment).

#8: Know your numbers
The results of a wellness assessment can be more useful to you when you provide additional biometric information that can pinpoint health risk factors, such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. On the Twin Cities campus, health screenings are available at no charge to UPlan members. UMD employees can undergo screenings at the QuickCare Clinic.

#7: Point and click to Healthy Living
The most popular wellness goal for most of us is to eat better. The shortest route to better nutrition is to add more color to our meals. Read: fruits and vegetables. For UPlan members, online Healthy Living programs can point the way, step-by-step, to better nutrition.

As a UPlan member, here, too, you and your spouse or same-sex domestic partner can each earn another $65 reward when you complete one of more than a dozen online Health Living programs.* Begin by revisiting the website StayWell Health Management, which hosts the wellness assessment for the University. You’ll find the site is robust, with calorie and carb counters and recipes for low-cost, easy-to-make meals.

#6: Move more

UPlan members have an added incentive to track the steps they take. Enrollment in the 10,000 Steps® program from Health Partners will get a participant a free pedometer and qualify him or her to receive a $65 wellness reward for completing the walking program. As one participant put it, "The pedometer gives me a good estimation of my daily steps and drives me to work harder."

Walkers say it's all about beating the numbers from the previous day. Avid pedestrians who want to track their on-campus miles can follow detailed online maps for popular walking routes.

#5: Take the stairs

Renew the promise you've made to yourself to move more. Shortly, the winners in last month's StairWELL Challenge will be announced. However, just because we've turned our calendars to April, there's no reason to turn down a chance to take a stairway over an elevator. One StairWELL Challenge participant found the added exercise enjoyable. "The StairWELL Challenge had me looking for stairs to climb, parking at the top of the ramp, and not using the elevator a single time during the month of March. I hope I can maintain this stair climbing mentality."

#4: Advocate for wellness

This year the Wellness Program launched an initiative in which volunteers (with supervisory permission) serve as wellness advocates within a University college or department. The goal is to create a supportive workplace environment for healthy behaviors and wellness-related activities. If you don’t know who your wellness advocate is, or if you want to become the wellness advocate in your workgroup, contact the Wellness Program.   

#3: Find encouragement from health coaching
If you need a nudge to get going, a personal health coach can provide support. UPlan members who work with a coach (by phone or in-person) to make lifestyle changes or manage a medical condition qualify to receive a $65 wellness reward.

This time last year, a UMD employee lost a family member to a heart attack. The woman, who then weighed 250 pounds, was motivated to work with a coach to improve her own health by overcoming excess weight, reducing stress, and learning about how to handle grief. One year later, after regularly visiting face-to-face with her coach, this dedicated employee weighs 185 pounds, wears a size 16, and takes the stairs everywhere. She is continuing to interact with her coach and is striving to lose one to two pounds a week. Her goal: to reach an “ideal weight” and a healthy BMI (body mass index) by the New Year.

#2:"Waist" management at work
For some, pounds come off more easily with support from a group of people who all are committed to the same goal. If you think a support group would help you, take advantage of the last chance this spring to enroll in Weight Watchers® at Work, April 14, beginning at 11:45 a.m., 6-410 Moos Tower. Attend this initial informational meeting and weigh-in. When you attend 14 of the 17 weekly sessions, you (and your spouse/SSDP) will have the $186 cost of the program returned to you.

Since early February, more than 300 employees have taken part in on-campus programs to shed unwanted pounds.

#1: Money back for exercise
Head to the gym eight times a month and the Fitness Rewards program for UPlan members and their spouses/SSDPs will provide you and your partner with a reimbursement of membership dues--up to $20 a month. The refund is yours when you belong to a participating health club and work out eight or more times each month.

Start now, start small
Launch a springtime renewal of a personal commitment to eat less, exercise more, or reduce stress. Start small and take a single, small step. That's what UMD Health Coach Rachel Gilbertson advises the newest enrollees in her health coaching program. "Pick one thing to work on. Just one thing,” she says. “Let the positive reinforcement which comes from a tiny accomplishment propel you forward to try to achieve more.”

Okay, now you are at the starting line. Crossover, inch forward, and spring into action: Discover a healthier you.

*UPlan members are able to earn just two $65 wellness rewards for the calendar year 2010; one award is for taking the wellness assessment and the other for completion of a health improvement program. The second award is paid for the year in which you enroll in the health improvement program.